Vegalta Sendai – Kashiwa Reysol:
Vegalta finished in a respectable 12th place last season, but showed defensive weaknesses throughout the season and in the end it was only a handful of teams who conceded more goals than them. They’ve made a couple of changes ahead of the new season, and in defence the new Korean DF Kim should be a nice addition and an upgrade to the departed Masushima. MF Shoji, who had a good season in J2 last year with Gifu, look also to go straight into the starting lineup in one of the 2 holding midfielder roles but it could prove tough to replace Mita who have left for Kobe. Up front Crislan is gone, and he was arguably their most lethal weapon and it’s doutbtful Takuma Abe can fill that void.
Kashiwa Reysol came 4th last year, and managed with that to qualify for ACL. They have already played a couple of matches in that competition already, although without much success. They have looked weak defensively, which is surprising as they had one of the best defensive records in the league last year, and are brimming with talents in all the positions at the back.
As for new additions this year, AM Esaka from Omiya is the most interesting one, and he will bring some flair to their midfield and create a lot of chances for Ramon Lopes and Cristiano. DF Kamekawa from Avispa, AM Segawa from Omiya and MF Koizumi from Albirex will most likely also see a lot of playing time, and they will need a big squad if they want to compete in 2 tournaments.
There hasn’t been much between these teams in previous meetings before, and the head-2-head record is an equal 9-7-9. This season though, the difference in quality should be big, and Reysol should be considered a pretty big favorite, even though they are playing away. Could see some goals in this one as well, as both teams seem to currently be having some issues defensively.
Prediction: 1-2 or 0-2
My price: +0,25 @ 2,01 / Over 2,5 @ 1,88
Market Price: +0,5 @1,92 / Over 2,5 @ 2,04
Shimizu S-Pulse – Kashima Antlers:
Shimizu avoided relegation by a whisker last season, and needed a win in their final match to secure play in J1. Since then they have changed their manager to the highly-rated Swede Jan Jönsson. They haven’t lost any players of huge significance, and the only regular starter that has gone is MF Edamura. They’ve brought back the Korean DF Hwang Seok Ho from Chinese football, and he should be a nice addition to their defence. They also got hold of Crislan from Vegalta who adds quality to their attack, and on the wing they brought in Jumpei Kusukami, who’ve spent the last couple of seasons in Australia.
Kashima lost the title with the smallest possible margin last season, and will be eager for revenge this year. They also got ACL to worry about, and are off to a good start there. As usual, they haven’t made too many changes to their squad, but have bolstered the defence. Former Schalke-star Uchida is back in Japan after a lengthy injury forced him out of Schalke. If he can regain fitness, he could easily be the best wingback in the league. And K. Anzai from Tokyo Verdy is also a player that will add depth. Other than that, the team is more or less untouched, which is a good thing as they got a fairly young squad with no obvious weaknesses.
Kashima won both meetings last year, and think they will take all the points here as well. Should be an easy win, although Shimizu looks slightly stronger than they did last year. Not sure about the totals, but Kashima failed to keep a clean sheet in both their 2 ACL-matches so far.
Prediction: 1-2 or 0-2
My price: +0,5 @ 2,04 / Over 2,5 @ 1,95
Market Price: +0,75 @ 1,82 / Over 2,75 @ 2,01
Jubilo Iwata – Kawasaki Frontale:
Jubilo Iwata were quite happy with their 6th place last year, and will look to build on that here. They haven’t lost any important players, but brought in 2 exciting new names in the talented MF Taguchi from Nagoya, and Brazilian wing-back Guilherme.
Kawasaki finally managed to win the title last year, after coming close so many times before. It should be a big relief to the club, and they will look to defend it here. 3 losses already this season though if we count the Super Cup, and their play in the ACL have been well under par. They’ve gotten rid of some deadweight, and brought back Okubo after a failed spell with FC Tokyo. They also snatched Manabu Saito from rivals Marinos, but he is currently injured. Other than that, not too many of the new players will be challenging for a place in the starting eleven.
Their form so far have been poor, and that should give Jubilo a good chance for some points here. I think we can see goals in this one at both ends.
Prediction: 2-1 or 2-2
My price: DNB @ 1,91 / Over 2,75 @ 2,04
Market Price: +0,25 @ 1,87 / Over 2,5 @ 1,97
Jubilo +0,25 @ 1,87 ( 5 units)
Over 2,5 @ 1,97 (5 units)
Cerezo Osaka – Yokohama F Marinos:
Cerezo won 2 domestic cup-titles last year, and also finished in a strong 3rd place, which is hugely impressive considering they played in J2 the year before. They have kept more or less their entire squad since last season, and look to have strengthened themselves in all positions.
Marinos were only 4 points behind Cerezo last year, but finished in 5th place and with that lost out on ACL as well. They also lost the Emperor’s Cup final vs them, meaning they will be out for revenge here. The got a new manager in the former Australia NT boss Ange Postecoglou but they have lost maybe their 2 most influential offensive players in Saito and Martinus. To replace them, they have signed Otsu from Reysol, and Yun il-Lok from FC Seoul. It looks a step down in quality, but then again, Saito was injured most of the time anyway.
Cerezo won all 3 matches against Marinos last season, and in fact Marinos haven’t beaten Cerezo since 2011. Cerezo also look to be in great form already, with strong performances in ACL and a 3-2 win vs Kawasaki in the Super Cup so they should be a rather big favorite here I think. No big opinion on the total, but leaning towards an under 2,5.
My price: -0,5 @ 1,95 / Over 2,5 @ 2,08
Market Price: -0,75 @ 1,96 /Over 2,25 @ 1,86